Police and Crime Commissioner’s funding expands support for ex-offenders

The Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) has awarded Aspire over £72,000 to support its ‘Through the Gate’ programme in Oxfordshire and expand it into Buckinghamshire.

The employment charity and social enterprise has operated a ‘Through the Gate’ Programme in Oxfordshire for 3 years and provides holistic support for both people in custody and ex-offenders in the community. 

The programme works with ex-offenders to help them gain employment by providing support such as CV writing and interview skills workshops, training and work experience on Aspire’s own enterprise businesses. They also work with local employers to encourage and support them in recruiting ex-offenders.

The £72,000 funding is for a one year period and is part of the PCC’s Community Safety Fund, supporting the Police and Crime Plan’s strategic priority of reducing reoffending. It has enabled Aspire to expand its’ ‘Through the Gate’ programme into Buckinghamshire and provide ex-offenders with specialist employment support and links to employers in Milton Keynes and High Wycombe.

Anthony Stansfeld, Police and Crime Commissioner for Thames Valley said “Aspire’s ‘Through the Gate’ programme is a well-established and successful service which has a positive impact on the lives of ex-offenders and help prevent re-offending in our communities. I am pleased to be able to fund the service to support its extension and increase the opportunities for ex-offenders in Buckinghamshire to find secure employment and move forward with their lives.”

Paul Roberts, Chief Executive Officer at Aspire, said “We are delighted to have the opportunity to expand our Through the Gate service into Buckinghamshire and be able to support more ex-offenders into and towards employment. This funding is critical in enabling us to expand our impact and reduce re-offending across the Thames Valley.”

The ‘Through the Gate’ programme works with male ex-offenders.  Referrals into the programme are made through bail hostels and prisons - Bullingdon and Springhill prisons in Oxfordshire and Woodhill prison in Buckinghamshire. 

Case studies from ex-offenders working with Aspire

Terry:

“I met Christine from Aspire in Bullingdon when I was coming to the end of my custodial sentence. She explained in detail what Aspire offers. When I was released I attended Aspire for a day’s trial…I really enjoyed the trial day & signed myself up for the 20 days’ work experience/CSCS training.

“As well as the work and training I’m receiving, I’ve also had support to get my provisional driving licence and completed three lots of the health & safety training. Then I signed up for many of the sports activities Aspire offers its trainees.

“As I’ve progressed really quickly at Aspire I was sent out to work in one of the universities, which usually is reserved for trainees that have worked longer with Aspire and who have more experience. I feel hopeful about my future.”

Terry was referred to University College in August 2017 and was offered a six month contract doing caretaking work across the college. Teresa Strike, Head of Hospitality & Accommodation talks about her experience working with Terry:

“Upon meeting Terry for the first time, it was clear he was very keen to turn his life around.  Immediately, he made real efforts to become part of our community...Terry is always friendly, helpful and very proactive in getting work done. 

“It is clear that Terry has not held down a full time job for a number of years, so we have supported him with flexible hours, enabling him to meet with his support network outside of college.  I regularly catch up with Terry and check he is ok, ensuring I am aware of any issues and giving him opportunities to ensure he can flourish in the role.

“Terry is the most likeable, hardworking, friendly and helpful person I know. I think he is really happy and feels part of our team and community.”

Henry:

“My name is Henry and I started working with Aspire’s sports project in October 2016 after being introduced to them at the hostel I was living in. Straight away I knew this was the perfect project for me as I was new to Oxford and I did not know anyone.

“Training with Aspire's boxercise class has given me something to do, people to talk to, a structured routine and it has helped me to keep fit. Aspire funded me to do a Personal Training course and I passed both the Levels 2 and 3 to become a fully qualified personal trainer.

“I had now been in the bail hostel for 11 months and I was about to be evicted. Jamie from Aspire supported me and found a place for me in ACT housing. I am now working as a full time personal trainer at Pure gym and Jamie is going to place me on a Level 1 England boxing course which will be perfect for my personal training. I would like to thank Jamie and Aspire for all of the support I have received since arriving in Oxford.”

JL:

“I came to Aspire pretty much as soon as I was released from prison and at that point had no work lined up. I met with Christine who was very informative and non-judgmental when we spoke, and this gave me hope that I might have some chances and not everything was lost. She seemed to value the skills and experience I already had.

“Christine’s support since this first day is what made me believe that there is hope for my career, that it did not have to end there and that there was some small chance to find employment.

Christine treated me like a normal person regardless of my history or background. In practical terms, Christine arranged the interview for me which got me my current job and encouraged me to take the opportunity despite the fact I was about to turn it down. But Chris insisted on my going at least for an interview then seriously thinking of accepting the offer. 

“She kindly checked on me after the interview to see how it all went. Then finally visited me at work which I found supportive. Christine also offered further advice and has remained a friend since then. She is a very kind and supportive lady and I owe her a lot. Thank you Christine!”

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